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The Bowl for the Tiniest Trophy in the World (It's the Size that Matters)

Don’t you think it’s about time football fans had more of an interest in physics?

Well, maybe you weren’t thinking that specific thought, but you might know that football is a smorgasbord of physics concepts in action. APS feels it’s time they did something about it, and have announced a contest to win the worlds Tiniest Trophy, and $1,000 to boot!
The trophy may be, quite literally, the tiniest trophy in the world (We'll see if a Guinness record is on the way…). The smallest aspect of the trophy, an image of a football field and helmet, is made up of lines that are only a few nanometers wide. Thats less than a thousandth of a human hair!

It’s a wafer, only a few centimeters wide, with multiple images of a football field and helmet. But inside one of those helmets are two, increasingly smaller images.

This image (above) shows the trophy. The multiple football fields you can see are each 12 millimeters wide.

The etchings are arranged Russian-doll style, with one image inside the next. Inside the helmet of the 12mm (large) engraving, is an identical image of a field and helmet that is 120 microns wide, and inside that is an even smaller one that is only 2.4 microns wide.

Above is the mid-sized, 120 micron etching (with better resolution).

The lines that make up the third, and smallest, image are only a few nanometers wide. A nanometer is only one-billionth of a meter. These lines are around 1/1000th the width of a human hair! The image is so small that it can’t be seen with even the most powerful optical telescope. You have to use an electron microscope. The engravings are created with atom and photo lithography in which (very basically) beams of atoms or light are used to create the lines.

To earn a chance to win the trophy and the prize money, all you have to do is create a YouTube video, around 2 minutes long, that demonstrates physics in football. The video can use any aspect of football, and can be real game footage or your own backyard experiment.

To submit a video, upload it to YouTube with the tag “nanobowl.” Let APS know about your video in an email to The deadline is January 15, 2008, and the winner will be announced on (duh) Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2008.

For more info go to, or check out these sites that physics central has listed as starting points for inspiration: Tim Gay's Physics of Football demonstration, hockey, NFL, body slam.


  1. Now I know what a nanometer is.
    Thanks for the interesting blog.

    Yours truly,

    Wendy Bagley


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